Published reports that the PGA Tour has made a bid to buy the European Tour seem premature according to numerous sources contacted by GolfChannel.com.
The reports – which appeared this week in the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph in the United Kingdom – do not cite specific sources. The reports quote Paul Casey, a member of the European Tour’s players’ committee, although the Englishman stops well short of suggesting he would be in favor of unified tours.
“I agree with those people who think we have an unbelievable product, but we are so far from maximizing it. We have to freshen things up,” Casey told the Daily Mail. “It really frustrates me. Look at the fact we’ve just announced on our website we’ve appointed a global search firm to find a new chairman, when the last one, Neil Coles, retired in May. Why on earth would that simple step take three months?”
In a statement released on Tuesday afternoon, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem called the reports “inaccurate.”
“However, as I have stated publicly on several occasions, the integration of professional golf can create additional value for our players, sponsors and fans,” Finchem said. “Such integration has been ongoing since 1994, with the founding of the International Federation of PGA Tours, and has led to the establishment of the World Golf Championships in 1999 as well as the World Cup as a Federation-sanctioned event. More recently, all the major golf bodies around the world worked together to bring golf back to the Olympic Games.”
Numerous sources said that such a mega-merger between Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and Wentworth, England (home of the European Tour) would be a tough sale on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
“I’m in shock,” said one longtime European player manager. “It will not end well if it is true. The game will not be better 20 years from now. I really, really, really hope this isn’t true.”
For the European Tour such a move would help balance the financial divide between the two circuits and provide access to the PGA Tour via the European money list, similar to how players graduate from the Web.com Tour.
As for what the PGA Tour would get out of the deal, the European Tour has a stronger footprint in Asia, specifically China, and the rights to the Ryder Cup, which is currently run by the European circuit and the PGA of America.
That, however, ignores the PGA Tour’s improving position in Asia in recent years. For the first time in 2013-14 the Tour will have two events in Asia – the CIMB Classic (Malaysia) and WGC-HSBC Champions (China) – that will be fully sanctioned, and on Monday the Tour named Greg Gilligan the managing director of PGA Tour (Beijing) Management Consulting to “lead the Tour’s efforts in China.”
While the reports of an impending takeover of the European Tour seem premature, most observers agree that the possibility of a “world tour” is not completely outlandish.
“Would Finchem, in his view, consider making the PGA Tour a globally branded golf tour? My gut says yes. It wouldn’t surprise me,” said another European Tour insider. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it is being considered. You know how it is with these things, where there is smoke . . .”